After countless WWII games this squad-based shooter this is the best representation of the constant harrowing fear and panic of the battlefield. Relying on a slower, more thought out tactical approach than Medal of Honor et al, the gameplay is infinitely more rewarding with some missions taking over an hour.
The story of the game follows on from the last PS2 game but don’t worry about it too much if you missed it as it’s easy to pick up (you may be tempted to raid the dusty PS2 shelves after this though). The scale and ambition is on a par with Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers with spectacular action and real emotion between the soldiers. You’re in the middle of the infamously botched Operation Market-Garden where instead of the war being over by Christmas, the allies received a major ass-kicking. Most missions involve taking out the giant 88 guns, liberating Eindhoven or simply staying alive against seemingly impossible odds.
Your squad is easy to manoeuvre round the battlefield. You select where you want them to go and they’ll find the nearest available cover rather than stand around like idiots. The only complaint about your squad is that they don’t follow you that well in regards to remaining unseen by ze Germans. For example, you sneak around a low wall to get a better look at the situation and when the Nazi’s have their backs turned you order your men to come to you. This is when they leap over the wall and trot towards you on the wrong side of the wall in full view of the enemy. And once they open fire you can’t order them to stop until its all clear. This can be annoying when you want to tempt the enemy to stick his head out for a clean shot by not firing for a bit.
Fortunately if any of your team gets killed during these brief moments of idiocy, they re-spawn after you complete an objective. Hint: protect the guy with the rocket launcher, he’s essential later on.
You could argue that the same tactics work throughout the game: have a team lay down covering fire to distract the enemy, while you or your assault team flank them and catch them on their blindside. It’s the most reliable way, but it becomes more challenging later on, especially when there are various groups of Nazi’s everywhere and one of them can always see what you’re up too.
Covering fire works with an icon over the general vicinity of enemy troops. Red means they are free to fire. Wear this down to grey and they are under too much fire to fire back any serious shots at you.
Some defensive cover you cower behind is destructible too, so digging in behind an upturned wooden table isn’t the best option. Sandbags are resistant to bullets but not explosives. Anything metal is pretty much indestructible so fill your boots.
The main perspective of the game is first person shooting, but this is quite difficult with your gun-sights taking up so much space onscreen. Instead, the best option is to find cover and lean out and shoot. Here the camera zooms out to third-person and puts cross-hairs on the screen which helps your targeting much more. Ammo is plentiful for standard weapons and you’ll need it as it’s quite difficult nailing Nazi’s from afar.
Unfortunately the online matches are pretty sparse and empty and don’t take advantage of the calculated cover-gameplay provided in the single-player mode. But chances are, after finishing the campaign mode you’ll want to start again, possibly on a higher difficulty.
Brilliant AI, a simple, well implemented squad command interface and tense against the odds encounters make this the best WWII game yet. Hell’s Highway has raised the bar considerably for WWII shooters.